Nearly two dozen Massachusetts businesses that temporarily lost their liquor licenses for violating state rules meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus also received a total of almost $1.4 million in state COVID-19 relief grants.
Of the 57 restaurants, bars, and other businesses whose liquor licenses the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission suspended over COVID-19 breaches, 23 received grants, The Boston Globe reported.
They included a Springfield strip club where state inspectors found maskless strippers giving lap dances, a Gardner hotel that hosted more than 400 guests for a pair of weddings, and a Weymouth bar where the owner when confronted by licensing officials responded “no government is going to tell me how to run my business.”
The grants were administered through the quasi-public Massachusetts Growth Capital Corp.
Get New England news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NECN newsletters.
A spokesperson for Mike Kennealy, the state secretary of housing and economic development and the MGCC’s chair, defended the program, saying it is the largest of its kind in the country to provide direct aid to businesses.
“All businesses met eligibility requirements when applying for MGCC grants, and MGCC expects all businesses to adhere to all applicable safety protocols in place to minimize transmission of this virus,” said Michael Verseckes, the spokesperson. “The MGCC does not condone any behavior that would result in any sort of violation of the state’s COVID restrictions.”
State Sen. Eric Lesser, who cochairs the Legislature’s committee on economic development, said many businesses that never violated the rules did not receive grants.
“The businesses that are not following the rules should be at the back of the line to get help,” the Longmeadow Democrat said.